Friday, April 20, 2007
The Sanctity of Iraqi Life
President Bush recently delivered two interesting speeches. According to the New York Times, in a talk at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, “Bush invoked the powerful imagery of the Holocaust on Wednesday to intensify pressure on Sudan, warning that the United States would impose stiff economic sanctions and seek others from the United Nations if President Omar Hassan al-Bashir does not bring a quick end to the brutal violence in Darfur.”
Bush’s other talk was to the fourth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Addressing a crowd that included Catholic priests and the bishop of the Arlington, Virginia, Diocese, Bush said, “We must continue to work for a culture of life — where the strong protect the weak, and where we recognize in every human life the image of our Creator.”
Unfortunately, it seems that none of the people in either audience asked Bush to reconcile his remarks with what the U.S. government has done to the people of Iraq. Consider the number of Iraqi people killed by the U.S. government since the U.S. broke off its partnership with Saddam Hussein in 1990: an estimated 600,000 in Bush’s war and invasion, an estimated 300,000 Iraqi children during the sanctions period (although U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright didn’t dispute the estimate of half-a-million when she stated that the deaths of the Iraqi children were “worth it”), and an estimated 100,000 deaths in the Persian Gulf War, for a total of some 900,000 Iraqi dead.
That’s almost 1/6 the number of people killed in the Holocaust! That is not a small number of dead Iraqi people. And on top of that are the hundreds of thousands of injured and maimed Iraqis.
Wouldn’t you think that people who are strongly committed to the sanctity of human life would have as much commitment to Iraqi life as to American life? Aren’t Iraqi people created in the image of God as much as Americans are? Why didn’t those hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi people have the same right to live their lives out naturally as Americans do? Under what moral authority did the U.S. government engage in an operation that ended up snuffing out the lives of so many Iraqi people?
Apparently none of the Catholic priests at the breakfast chose to ask Bush those questions. Perhaps it’s because many of them have “patriotically” supported the Iraq War and subsequent occupation, regardless of how many Iraqis have been killed.
For example, consider the pro-war stance of Catholic theologian George Wiegel, whose pro-war articles have been printed in the Arlington Catholic Herald, the official newspaper of the Arlington diocese. Weigel steadfastly maintains that Bush’s war and occupation are justified under Catholic just-war theory. But if Weigel is right (and there are many Catholic theologians who say he’s not), then I say that the Catholic just-war theory is in desperate need of being abandoned by Catholics as a guide to war, given that it would be difficult to find a better example of a war of aggression, a type of war crime punished at Nuremberg, than Bush’s war on Iraq.
The Catholic priests had an excellent opportunity to confront Bush directly with his wrongdoing in Iraq, ask him to confess his sin and to repent the wrongful killing and maiming of so many Iraqi people. Unfortunately, unable to muster the courage and moral fortitude that the late Pope John Paul II reflected in opposing Bush’s invasion of Iraq prior to the invasion, the Catholic priests, while reaffirming their commitment to the sanctity of human life, decided to remain mute on the deaths of almost a million Iraqis.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.